I have lost track of what trip I am reviewing as I have consumed a lot of Cathay Pacific business class in the last few months. I have taken trips to Rome (via Hong Kong) and Tokyo and Seoul (with a CX leg care of a oneworld circle Pacific fare). I liked Cathay’s old business class. It suffered slightly from the not quite flat incline that a number of carriers launched in the late ‘90s and early this decade (Qantas, Virgin Atlantic, Singapore Airlines) but was still an excellent product. Cathay’s new business class is in the herringbone style like the (now not so) new Virgin Atlantic Upper Class. That is a series of angled seats in individual mini cabins jutting out in a fish bone looking formation. This is a great airline product. I struggle to find any faults with Cathy Pacific long haul business class. There are carriers with higher quality food but these are at the margin. CX is at the top of my list of carriers (if you want to see the list, click here).
The BOOT rating for Cathay International Business Class is a 5 stars out of 6 or “Great Seat”. Here is the detailed review (Details and scoring system for airline seat reviews)
Getting on Board Score 1.0
I am not a big fan of what should be an impressive airport in Hong Kong. I would like the gates to be a little bit better organised to improve the flow of people onto the plane. Most of the queues degenerate into a confusing mass of people. That said, the world class CX business and first class lounges more than make up for the annoyances of getting on the aircraft. Qantas has fought back with their Sydney first class lounge but CX Wing and Pier lounges are nearly unbeatable. QF Sydney wins when it comes to food. The food, wine and service restaurant in the QF first class lounge should probably score a “hat” in the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food guide. But CX wins overall because of their Cabanas (in photo). These min-day rooms come with a full sized bath, recliner chair for sleeping and a water feature. Turns a 2+ hour layover in Hong Kong into a mini spa treatment. On the one hand is outrageous and unjustifiable luxury but on the other hand it is an unbeatable way to “survive” hours in transit.
The Seat Score 1.0
I like it. I like it a lot. There are two challenges in setting up a herring bone style seat. Firstly privacy. If you get the angles wrong then you spend the flight staring directly at the person across the aisle from you. 9-13 hours is a long time to be staring a stranger. Secondly width. The herring bone design is based on length – trying to give the longest seat in the smallest amount of space. If done badly it can end up too narrow or starting wide at that top and ending up too narrow at the feat. CX have avoided both of these issues in their design. I can see the top of the head of the person opposite but nothing more. As to width it is a little tight on the elbows when typing but if not working (ie resting, watching or sleeping) there is less of a tight coffin like feeling that I have experienced in other herringbone seats. The buttons and gadgets are in the right place. One minor complaint is that the design of the table and TV screen means that it is impossible to have a computer open and watch a movie at that same time. Makes it very hard to be watching a crappy movie while pretending to do work.
The Service Score 0.5
Smooth, seamless and attentive. I like being recognised for my status - even though it is one world not Cathay specific. On the flight where I flew with a bulging disc in my back (very painful) there were staff everywhere after I landed making sure that I was taken through customs and immigration to a doctor.
The Food Score 0.5
This is the only weak-spot for CX. The food is not that bad. Certainly not at the level of blandness that I have had on Thai, JAL or Malaysian. However the food is closer to “satisfying” and “OK” than to “enjoyable” and a long way from “memorable”. I have two issues with it. The food itself could be improved. There are often too many flavours on the plate and the vegetables overcooked. I also dislike the silver service nature of the distribution of the food. On Qantas they have mastered delivering plates one at a time meaning the food arrives hot and fresh. On CX they place all of the plates on one tray and serve the whole cabin from the one service tray. Unless you are early in the service order your food is cooler than it should be and sauces on the way to being solid. The first issue is hard to fix as requires a reworking of Cathay’s catering approach but the second is a serving issues and CX should fix it.
The Entertainment Score 1.0
In the world where all of the top flight products are during audio and video on demand and noise cancelling headsets it is harder to find differentiation between the leading airlines. The three areas are entertainment selection, control comfort and timings. In each of these CX excel. In the selection area they have a long list of TV shows, movies and audio on demand. Their Studio CX system claims 100 movies, 350 TV shows and (a very luck sounding) 888 songs. The controls are easy to use and most importantly are located in a way that you do not accidentally bump them (something that happens far too often on other carriers). The area I like the most is how quickly they turn on the system. BA, QF, VS and others take a long time to turn on the entertainment. Often forcing you to wait until the seat belt sign is off and then sit through a 20 minute intro video before allowing you to use the system to its fullest. But not Cathay. The system is available from the moment you are in the air (sometimes before) until the last minute before landing (and sometimes after). This is a little thing but a very noticeable benefit.
The BOOT factor Score 1.0
I love starting a flight with the latest copy of the Economist – freely provided. I also need to put in another plug for the first class lounge cabanas. A Cathay experience does not have the “great to have you here” feel of a Virgin Atlantic flight or (naturally) the “looking forward to bringing you home” feel that (some) Qantas crews deliver. But I do feel like everything I need to have happen will happen to make the flight smooth and productive.
Final Score 5.0 - Great Seat